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I'm a mommy, wife, chauffeur, zookeeper, reader and book reviewer

Monday, December 31, 2012

A diamond, a box and tea bag staples

The Billionaire's CurseThe Billionaire's Curse by Richard Newsome
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Great-aunt Geraldine has died and all the nieces’ and nephews’ families from around the world have gathered. They all want to know what is their share of the Billionaires’’ wealth. Gerald could care less. He has never met his namesake and would rather be skiing with his mates. Gerald is stunned when the reading of the will reveals he has inherited the majority of the wealth.

As he learns about his distant aunt, Gerald discovers connections to a diamond, a legendary box, and tea bag staples. But what he really wants to know is if any of it has to do with Geraldine’s death. After a few close encounters with a tall, thin man who smells of bleach, Gerald teams up with the Valentine twins to find answers.

Richard Newsome is an Australian so there are definite British undertones in the storyline such as disinterested parents and bumbling cops. It is probably best for upper elementary to middle grade boys. While the storyline is interesting, I don’t think I’m curious enough to read more in the series.


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Monday, December 24, 2012

An ok Christian pirate tale

Isle of Swords (Isle of Swords, #1)Isle of Swords by Wayne Thomas Batson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Declan Ross captains the William Wallace as a pirate. He is not your usual bloodthirsty fellow, however. He has moral standards and pirates mainly for survival. If only he could find enough treasure so he could retire with his daughter Anne and convince her that the pirate’s life isn’t for either of them. Along the way they find a badly beaten young man with amnesia and must deal with the notorious pirate, Bartholomew Thorne.

The point of view changed a lot, because the author explored the thoughts of more than two characters. Though there were hourglasses to indicate the changes, it was sometimes a bit confusing.
It was interesting how he wove religion into a pirate tale with some old Catholicism, tradition and legend.

I think the first chapter should have been a prologue as it introduced us to the main villain but then involved such a minor character that I wondered by the end of the book why the Batson used that scene as the backstory when others would have been better.

The best part of the story was the suspense—built as the author dropped little clues along the way that drove me to turn the next page. While this book is cleaner than most pirate books, it is still a bloody tale. I would recommend it to an older middle grader to young adult. (If you are looking for a pirate tale for younger kids, check out James R. Hannibal’s Pirate: Midnight Passage.)


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Friday, December 21, 2012

Not as acary as Peretti

Darkness RisingDarkness Rising by Lis Wiehl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dani Harris is a forensic psychiatrist who is supposed to be on a break to deal with any stress brought on by working on a murder case. Even though the case of declared closed, Dani can’t let it go and continued following clues.

Tommy Gunderson is a former football player, a wannabe detective, and school friend of Dani’s. Together they are finding clues to something much bigger than one boy killing one girl.

Having read Peretti in high school, Wiehl’s writing is not as dark or frightening—thankfully. I enjoyed it and would like to read the rest of the trilogy

I received this book free from the publisher in order to give my honest review.


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C.S. Lewis Sci-fi

Out of the Silent Planet (Space Trilogy, #1)Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ransom is backpacking when he runs into a former college schoolmate. While he never got along well with Devine, Ransom never expected to be drugged and kidnapped. Soon he found himself in a strange room where he didn’t know which end was up. Later Professor Weston informed him that it was a room in a spherical ship which was travelling through space.

After landing, Ransom managed to escape and discovered different creatures, language and way of life. When he runs into Devine and Weston again, he learns that they want to conquer each planet and eventually the universe.

Lewis always has an interesting way of painting his analogies and metaphors. His Narnia series is great so I look forward to reading more of this Sci-fi series.


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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A new favorite

To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For many this book is among required reading usually in high school. Somehow I had avoided reading it until it was highly recommended by my book club.

Once I started I couldn’t put it down. I finished in about a week. The style is similar to Huck Finn, but with a female protagonist.

Scout is growing up in the South, when blacks aren’t really slaves anymore but are still segregated. Some people, like her father, consider blacks as human and equal. Others still view them as separate and unequal.

Since Scout’s mother died, her father allows her to figure out life in her own way—traipsing around in overalls, instead of dresses, with her brother Jem. Aunt Alexandra wants to teach Scout to be a lady, but to do so goes against Scout’s dad’s philosophy of life.

In some ways, Harper Lee expresses some rather forward thinking. However some parents may not want their children reading about rape, though I think it was dealt with tactfully.


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Not the type I would have chosen, still worth the read

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hitler is slowly rising to power and Liesel is having to grow up. As a German, if you weren’t for Hitler you were a threat. First her father disappears. Next her mother is chronically ill and finds she can’t afford to take care of herself or her children—Liesel and her brother. Liesel’s mother arranges with an agency for her children to be put in foster care. Then her brother doesn’t make it—he dies on the train en route.

Leisel is still placed with the Hubermans. While in there care, she learns about war time, injustice, and how different people deal with tragedy.

Since it is told from the perspective of death through the eyes of a poor, young, non-Nazi, it definitely sheds a different light on that time period. The writing style seemed disjointed and didn’t capture my interest until about half-way through; though Zusak does paint some unique word picture. Still, The Book Thief was well worth my time and I would recommend it to young adults and up.


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Friday, December 14, 2012

Lots of effects, but that's about it

300 tells you a little about Spartans and how they are selected and trained as warriors. King Leonidas takes 300 of the best warriors to fight the Persians supposedly against the wishes of the Oracle. There is no character arc and little story at all. It’s war with lots of visual and sound effects of slicing, dicing, and blood splatter. There were some scenes that I found disturbingly weird like the Persian king’s harem tent. If you’re into movies for effects, you might like it. If you like movies for the characters and storyline, you probably won’t.

My kids didn't even like it (warning, spoiler)

Jessica Alba plays a spy turned mom who is so sneaky no one in her family knows. Of course, by the end of the movie her husband and all the kids are involved, including the baby and the original Spykids are reunited. My family enjoyed the first three Spykids movies so of course we had to see the fourth. They shouldn’t have bothered making the fourth. There is too much bathroom humor including poopy diaper and vomit bag ammo. It wasn’t even funny. In fact, I didn’t think it was worth my time to review, but my older daughter said I should warn others—so my kids didn’t even like it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Just a fun movie

Just Like Heaven Elizabeth is a workaholic doctor trying to get an attending position at a hospital in San Francisco. She loves helping people but sacrifices her social life. On one late night she is in a car accident. David has withdrawn from society out of depression and ends up renting Elizabeth’s apartment. Her spirit keeps hanging around but he is the only one who can see her. This is a funny romantic comedy not a scary ghost story. There is a good twist part way through, though it is a bit predictable.

Reminds me of the old movies I used to watch with my dad

Red Tails It’s 1944 and Blacks in the military is an experiment. They are kept in their own unit in Italy and not given any important missions so they can’t really succeed. One black colonel and one white colonel believe in the 532nd and are in the states to convince those in charge that this black unit is capable of serving. Though it has the typical language of a war movie, the blood is less than I expected. It is a bit more lighthearted than most war movies, though I suspect this is to expand the viewing audience for more people to learn of the Red Tails story.

I'm not a cat person, but ...

Into the Wild (Warriors, #1)Into the Wild by Erin Hunter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rusty has always been a house cat, a pet, but he dreams of life beyond his backyard – beyond his neighborhood even. One day he ventures into the woods beyond his yard and meets wildcats for the first time. Impressed with his fighting instinct, they invite him to join their clan. Rusty finds his new life strange and intriguing and adapts quickly and is given a new name--Firepaw. Then again he has to adapt quickly as there is trouble among the four clans of wildcats. Accusations and rumors are flying. But it is to Firepaw’s advantage that he is a newbie to the wildcat life and not entrenched in tradition. He must trust his own instincts to find the real truth of what is going on.

I am a dog person, not a cat person, yet Hunter describes the wildcat life to the point that I began to imagine them as primitive people. The language is clean, the fights are not overly violet or gory though there is blood splatter. This one is much better than her Seekers. I would recommend this to upper elementary and up.


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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cute idea, bad language

Velcro: The Ninja Kat (Volume 1)Velcro: The Ninja Kat by Chris Widdop
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

There is a mysterious cat hiding in the shadows dressed all in black. The Ninja Kat is attacking the military unity called the Devil Corps run by the Devil Dog. By dressing in black and hiding in the shadows, the Ninja Kat uses the element of surprise to outwit the Devils. Without surprise, no other weapon seems to stand a chance against the Devil Corps who have Magic and technology at their disposal. When the Ninja Kat is finally overpowered, the Kat teams up with a group of Hamsters with courage and determination and the ability to develop new technology.

The premise of the book is good, intriguing even. It’s cute how Widdop uses a hamster’s store bought habitat as the hamster’s city. I enjoyed picturing cats using martial arts and dogs as soldiers. Unfortunately these cute elements are contrasted against bad language making it inappropriate for elementary and middle schoolers. Parents concerned about language should be aware even at the young adult level.

When the author started talking about the mysterious Black Magic, I was also disappointed. Black Magic and hamsters fighting in balls became too predictable for me. I wanted to like this story by I just don’t think I can recommend it to anyone.


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Children's series by Suzanne Collins

Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles, #1)Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At 11, Gregor’s life seems to have hit bottom. His 7-year-old sister Lizzie gets to go to summer camp while he has to stay home with his grandma who is battling Alzheimer’s and his 2-year-old sister Boots so his mom can go to work. His dad disappeared.

Gregor didn’t think he could feel any lower until he and Boots get sucked into Underland. This he hit rock bottom. They discover a world where humans exist normal size but bugs and rodents are giant and can talk.

At first Gregor seems stuck in this hidden world, until he learns of a prophecy and the hope this his dad might also be stuck in Underland.

This is a great page turner that I would recommend to upper elementary to middle grade.


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Sink or Float?

Hope Floats Birdie learns on a TV talk show that her husband has been sleeping with her best friend. She packs up her car and drives to her mother’s home in Texas. Her mother still lives in the same house as Birdie grew up. She talks to many people from her past as she tries to figure out her future. This is a story of how some people will do anything to make other happy, when all it does is make everyone miserable. While it does show the dangers of being a people pleaser and trying to be someone you’re not; some will find it hard to see this message past the character of Justin attempting to date a married woman.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Great character development

Safe with Jason Statham Luke used to be a cop until he discovered the corruption around him. He left the force to pursue cagefighting. But then a fixed fight went horribly wrong landing his opponent in ICU. Luke became a marked man. He rushed home to whisk his wife away, but the Russian mob got to her first. They warned him that anyone he talked to were also marked. Depressed, he contemplates suicide on the edge of the subway until he sees a scared little girl out of the corner of his eye. Mei has a knack for numbers. She is discovered by the Triads and used to memorize a code. The Russian mob tries to kidnap her but Mei manages to escape everyone and tries to disappear into the subway. Safe has a great storyline with good twists and well developed characters. I think they did an especially good job of showing the contrast between how Luke interacted with the dirty cops and mobsters and how he interacted with Mei.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Less than I expected

Chronicle Andrew’s mom is sick. His dad was a firefighter, now he’s a drunk. Andrew is considered a bit of a geek at school which is compounded when he decides to carry a video camera everywhere and film everything. His cousin Matt talks him into going to a rave. Then Matt and his friend Steve stumble on a strange hole. They talk Andrew into filming as they explore the hole, cave and what it contains. What is in the cave can’t be explained, yet gives them strange powers and brings out their dark side. Most of the movie is filmed from Andrew’s viewpoint—literally—as though he is filming the movie himself. As a result the story is raw and gritty. This filming style is not my taste and I found it rather boring. However, it is a pretty good illustration of the pent up anger kids can have if they face verbal and/or physical abuse at home and/or school. Especially if no one takes the time or energy to truly care.

I wasn't expecting it to be so good

Man on a Ledge A police psychologist is called on to talk a jumped down off the ledge of a hotel building. She doesn’t want to do it as she is drinking away the memory of a failed case. Curiously, the would-be-jumper has asked for her by name. Nick Cassidy was a cop until he was accused of a robbery. During his time behind bars he formulated an elaborate plan to clear his name. This plan includes a risky scheme to steal the attention of all New York while he stands precariously on the ledge of a hotel building while his brother sneaks around behind everyone’s back. This movie has some great twists, great acting, and a great storyline. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An "anti-princess"

Brave Fairytales are traditional and nobody messes with tradition, right? Price Charming wins the hand of the fair princess and they live happily ever after. But Merida is a tomboy at heart with red unruly hair who loves riding horseback through the woods mastering an archery course. And the princes from the neighboring clans are far from charming. So of course Merida seeks out a spell to change tradition and of course the spell goes all wrong. In the end, the real question isn’t will they live happily ever after but who will learn from the experience. I am so glad Disney has created another “anti-princess” like Mulan. Not all girls have to love pink and fancy dresses. Some can wield swords or bows and fight for what’s right. There are a couple intense scenes that some may be sensitive too.

A good action movie with a romantic subplot

Killer Elite Assassins. Hired Killers. Some live on the rush. But Danny and Hunter were tired. They saw killing as just a job, not an identity, and they were ready for a career change. Unfortunately the man in charge wasn’t accepting their resignation—at least not until they did one more job. What they discovered wasn’t one last assignment, but a suicide mission. High-risk, high-profile, low success. There are a lot more people and organizations involved than they originally thought—organizations that aren’t supposed to exist. I enjoyed this movie and would recommend it to others, though some may not care for the romantic subplot. (No, Statham and DeNiro do not get together).

Friday, September 28, 2012

I would have written a fourth

Goliath (Leviathan, #3)Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is a time of inventions and fabrications. In some neutral territories the lines between Clankers (those who favor steam and mechanical inventions) and Darwinists (those who think creating creatures and mixing DNA hold the future) are blurring. Alek and Dylan are caught in the middle trying to sort out their own loyalties. An inventor—Mr. Tesla himself--enters the scene and scrambles things further. Fortunately the secrets are unraveled in Goliath, so you’ll find the book hard to put down once you start.

This is the third and final book of the Leviathan trilogy. I thought it was a bit long-winded at times and the ending was a little too happily-ever-after for me (I think I would have extended some of the struggles and suspense for a fourth book). Still, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to others—older middle grade and up as there are some things in the book that might be better understood by someone a little older.


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I wouldn't classify it as Sci-fi

The Adjustment Bureau The Adjustment Bureau works behind the scenes arranging people's fate. But David Norriss wants to control his own fate. He manages to catch the Bureau in the act of "adjusting" his fate and is threatened to never speak of it and to stay away from a woman he has just met. The Bureau attempts to enforce this separation but Norriss avoids them and foils their varied efforts. I was expecting a sci-fi thriller, but instead found romantic and religious mush. Was it a stab at the Greek gods, God, a debate personified, or the visual musings of the existence of any supreme being. It really wasn't worth my time or money.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"I'm Back"

Expendables 2 If you’re looking for an exciting actions movie, look elsewhere. If you are a fan of comic book movies and have fond memories of 80’s action flicks, you will be entertained. I’m glad Norris got his camera time, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if he was not in the next one. It would have been nice for Li’s character to have more time as his fight scenes are always entertaining. Statham and Van-Damm showed off their skills. Stallone, Willis, and Schwarzenegger were entertaining yet showing their age. I think Couture is doing pretty good crossing over from fighting to acting. Some of the blood effects were a little over the top for my taste, but other than that I really liked the movie.

I preferred The Red Pyramid

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Percy Jackson has ADHD, dyslexia and a knack for finding trouble. He sees things no one else sees—like ladies who turn into bats and pens that turn into swords. And then he finds out he might be the son of a Greek god and monsters of the Underworld are after him—well at least that explains a math teacher that turned into a bat.

The Lightning Thief is an interested story (though I preferred The Red Pyramid). I liked that Percy prefers to do his own thing—which sometimes gets him in trouble but also helps him survive. Christians may be bothered by prayers to the gods and burnt offerings.

I would recommend this to older middle grade readers or the young adult crowd.


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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

These bears aren't so cute and cuddly

The Quest Begins (Seekers, #1)The Quest Begins by Erin Hunter
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Kallik is a polar bear. Toklo is a young Grizzly and Lusa is a black bear. There is a lot of folklore of the stars and where the spirits of the dead go woven into the story.

I found this to be a sad and depressing story. While it was interesting to view the world from the perspective of three different types of bears, experiencing so much death and abandonment made me wonder what the point was. I realize death is part of nature and animals dying is normal, but to have so many bears die in the first few chapters I found depressing.


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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Puzzles and secrets

The Maze of Bones  (The 39 Clues, #1)The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amy and Dan Cahill knew they had a big and varied extended family, but until their Grandma Grace died, they didn’t know how extensive and interesting. Their parents died years ago and their Great-Aunt Beatrice hired and fired au-pares to take care of them on the other side of town from her. At Grace Cahill’s funeral they and other relatives have the opportunity to set out on a scavenger hunt quest to discover family secrets. But everywhere they turn there seems to be a relative looking over their shoulder trying to rob them of the clues and get to the ultimate prize first: the key to the Cahill family power.

This is a fascinating read that is hard to put down. There are puzzles throughout that the reader can try to solve along with the characters.


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For enterttainment only

New Kid Catastrophes (T.J. and the Time Stumblers, #1)New Kid Catastrophes by Bill Myers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

TJ has moved from Missouri to Californiaand is trying to adjust. Unfortunately that is nearly impossible when everything that could go wrong does—like when two surfer dudes from the 23rd century show up to study her and try to help her.

For entertainment value, it is a clean and funny story. Lots of crazy things happen. While this is Christian fiction it is only blatant in one short scene. But for literary value, it falls short. The overall premise and character arc are weak. It is a good idea poorly executed.

If you’re looking for clean and funny for an 8-12 year old, it works. In fact, I just handed it to my 10 year old.


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It was a little creepy for my taste

Showdown (Books of History Chronicles: Paradise, #1)Showdown by Ted Dekker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The laid back town of Paradise, Colorado seemed stuck in a rut. A monastery hidden deep in a canyon seemed isolated from the outside. Yet Dekker entwines these two in a story that straddles reality and fantasy.

Something happened in Paradise years ago that was swept under the carpet. In doing so the heart of soul of the townspeople began to grow cold and hard—and Father Yordon the preacher is in the middle of it.

David Abraham is the head of the monastery, a project to see if the innocence of children could be cultivated and encouraged in a pure and loving environment.

This story borders on allegory as many scenes bring to mind Biblical events or scenarios: choices, sacrifice, worms and characters. As a thriller, however, it is not for the faint of heart. More than once I was tempted to quit as certain scenes were described in such graphic detail. But there was a twist halfway through that had me hanging on for dear life.


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Kind of like an Egyptian Harry Potter

The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles, #1)The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sadie and Carter Kane are brother and sister but have lived worlds apart ever since their mother died. Carter travels the globe with his anthropological dad and Sadie lives in England with her maternal grandparents. Carter and his dad are allowed two visiting days with Sadie each year. It is on one of those visiting nights that their world blows up in so many ways. Their dad disappears, they have to run for their lives, and decided whom they can and cannot trust among people they’ve only just met. They learn about each other, their family history and a lot about Egyptian mythology.

The Red Pyramid is similar to Harry Potter as they young people learn they are descendants of Pharaohs and have magic, but instead of witches and wizards there are Egyptian gods and goddesses.

I enjoyed this read and recommend this to anyone who liked Harry Potter.


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Monday, July 16, 2012

Barking Brilliant!

Behemoth (Leviathan, #2)Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The second book in the Leviathan trilogy was just as good as the first. Genetically altered or fabricated creatures and steam powered robots all set in World War I. Westerfeld paints a picture so vivid that you think you are there, wonder what is real and what is fantasy, and wishing some of the fantasy could be reality.

The characters are so believable. Even though there is a large cast, Westerfeld describes them all so well that nobody gets lost in the shadows.

Westerfeld definitely created another page turner as you wonder if Prince Aleksander will be caught and by whom, will Dylan’s secret identity be discovered and what on earth Dr. Barlow’s fabricated creature is.

Anyone who likes science fiction from middle grade and up should check out the Leviathan trilogy.


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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Finished the Time Quintet

An Acceptable Time (Time, #5) (O'Keefe Family, #4)An Acceptable Time (Time, #5) by Madeleine L'Engle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Murry children are all grown and left home. In fact, Meg and Calvin married and this book stars their oldest daughter Polly. Polly is staying with her grandparents when she stumbles through a time gate that takes her back 3000 years. She encounters the People of the Wind—the same Indian Tribe her uncle Charles Wallace encountered in A Swiftly Tilting Planet (I am disappointed that L’Engle did not address this connection. Perhaps because the previous encounter was done by kything).

Though this story was much better than Many Waters and more in the style of the other Time books, it still left me feeling let down and wondering if 300+ pages was really worth that ending.


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Monday, July 2, 2012

A little trippy

A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Time, #3)A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle is another in the Time Quintet series. It was written third, but is fourth in the series.

Fast forward through Meg’s high school and college years. She is now married to Calvin and expecting her first child. Sandy and Dennys are finishing college and Charles Wallace is 15. L’Engle’s style is still and interesting mix of Science Fiction and fantasy though I thought this book was a bit more “trippy” than the first two.

Once again the fate of our world and possibly the whole universe is at stake. Instead of traveling to other worlds and interacting with imaginative creatures, there is more time travelling and altering.

I’m curious to see what happens to this family in the next installment.


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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Disappointed

Many Waters (Time, #4)Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I became a fan of Medelein L’Engle in 5th grade when A Wrinkle in Time was assigned. It was only within the last couple years I discovered there was more to the series. I thought A Wing in the Door was just as wonderful as A Wrinkle in Time. However, Many Waters and A Swiftly Tilting Planet were written in a different order with a different style and voice.


Many Waters stars Sandy and Dennys—the twin middle siblings of Meg and Charles Wallace. As they are trying to fix a snack, the teenage twins go into the parents’ lab, accidentally trigger an experiment in progress, and find themselves in the pre-flood time of Noah.


While L’Engle uses an interesting perspective of Seraphim and Nephilim—the sons of God who intermingled with humans—she also deals with sex and puberty in language that is more appropriate for young adults. A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the door, and possibly A Swiftly Tilting Planet could be recommended for middle graders, but definitely not Many Waters.


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Friday, May 25, 2012

Women's ministry part 2: So why am I here?

After I wrote yesterday's reaction, I was asking myself--Then why am I getting more involved? Why am I here? I didin't do women's Bible study until my older daughter was about one. Before that I had been working and found social interaction there. But I had become a stay-at-home-mom and figured I should get out of the house and my daughter needed to be socialized. After daughter number 2, we tried moving and building a house, so I "dropped out of life" for a while. Things didn't work out and we've stayed put. I spent some time arguing with God that I didn't need a Bible study to study the Bible. I had family so I didin't need social interaction. Well, God made helped me realize that I needed to interact with people outside my family. (And that my husband can get tired of being the only person I talk to). I learned that women's retreats could be fun--they're not all the same and not what I thought. I still didin't always fit in but I found women--Christian women in a church (imagine that)--who accepted me and loved me even though I'm a little bit different. Since I've grown up in the church, it's hard for me to be challenged or inspired by studies because I've studied the Bible a long time. But I've found that regardless of how good or bad, how deep or superficial, how organized or disorganized a study is, I can ALWAYS get something out of it if I ask God to show me something. (On the flipside, I can also be disappointed if I don't go in desiring to learn and expecting NOT to learn anything.) Then it came to a point when I realized that the only way I could be challenged further would be to teach a study. I knew I would have to dig deeper and work harder to stay ahead of those I'm teaching. Yeah, I thought God was crazy. I did my own version of a "fleece" making sure I'd heard the call right. I have found the most welcoming, encouraging, supporting, loving group of Christian women in a church. They have been changing my opinion of women. I hope and pray that I convey these things to the women in my group.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My reaction to some of the women's ministry blogs

http://modernreject.com/2012/01/why-i-dont-like-womens-ministry/ http://www.kareneyates.com/ I’ve been taking on more leadership in our women’s ministry, which there are days I find that so ironic I have to laugh out loud. You see, I don’t like women. Ok, let me clarify. I don’t like the stereotype “woman” as painted by the media, society, and “church.” Dresses. Lace. Pink. Flowers. Romance. Romantic comedies. Victorian. Teddy Bears. Scrapbooking. Jewelry. Heels. BLEH! Give me jeans, t-shirts, black, grey, sci-fi, action, adventure, martial arts, cars, trucks, guns … I have also recently discovered a bit of hidden athleticism so if I could live in running clothes and tennis shoes, I think I would. But sadly, I’ve met women—in and out of “church”—who were judgemental, critical, and competitive. If I didn’t fit their picture of good mom, good wife, or good woman I felt disapproval. I’m sure some of this has been my personal perception, but some has been very real. I think thanks to society, media and even “church,” women have trouble embracing differences—but why? Do we need to change our thinking? Our perspective? Our reaction?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lemony Snicket

The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #13)The End by Lemony Snicket
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I remember when these books originally came out and I didn’t understand the fascinations with such a dismal sounding title. When my older daughter brought one home and didn’t want to stop reading, I knew it was time to check the book out. I borrowed the book after she went to bed and … couldn’t put it down! Lemony Snicket is a brilliant writer! His comedic triplets are hilarious. The doom and gloom are so over the top that I had to laugh. The ramblings would seem to break writing rules, yet deliver comic relief and do not detract from the story. Dare I say, these books are just as good as Harry Potter—and I thoroughly enjoyed the Harry Potter series.

There were a few volumes that I thought were darker than the others (thus the 4 star rating) such as cook 3, 4, 8, and 9. Without spoiling the end of The End, I felt it all ended a little sadder than I had hoped; but I guess with the title of A Series of Unfortunate Events, one can’t expect a happily ever after.

I would definitely recommend this series to the 8-12 year old crowd!

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Everybody's doing it: My opinion on the Hunger Games

I had already seen the buzz among my peers about the Hunger Games. I wasn’t really interested. I already had a big to-be-read stack. Then my older daughter (9yrs) came home telling me that lots of kids in her class were reading it. I promised her I would read a little and then let her know what I thought. I read the sample on my kindle and still wasn’t interested. I told her I didn’t like it and that I didn’t feel it was age appropriate for her. Still my daughter was persistent and even started writing us proposals. I made her a deal and a list. I told her if she read at least one book from each series on the list (and I knew there would be some series in which she would read more than one) that I would reconsider my decision. When I compiled the list and counted the number of books in each series, the total was more 100! Even if she doesn’t read every book, there are still eight different series for her to explore. My daughter is satisfied, at least for now. Though I think she’s looking forward to a day when she can convince me to let her read Hunger Games, in the mean time there will be many more moments like this. Sure some may say I’m over-protective; but really there’s a lot of books to read, a lot of movies to see and Hunger Games is neither the last book nor the last movie on the planet … yet.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A different look at slavery

The Clone CodesThe Clone Codes by The McKissacks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Clone Codes by The McKissacks is about a girl named Leanna Deberry in the year 2170. She attends virtual school with the help of virtual reality type glasses in which she get to experience history as though she were really there. But as she learns about slavery and the Underground Railroad in school, she learns about another type of slavery in her real life that involves clones and cyborgs.

This is a great story with excitement, suspense, and intrigue including flashes to the past and a fun look at the future. It definitely asks the question—is slavery really a thing of the past or is it still with us in other forms.


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Friday, March 30, 2012

Nobody knows what's going on

The House on the CornerThe House on the Corner by Michael Rains
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Chester hates to clean the hall bathroom. Even though he is bored, he’d rather hide out in his room bouncing socks off the wall than clean the bathroom. When his mom asks him to run an errand to his uncle’s house, Chester agrees and tries to take as much time as possible to avoid that dreadful cleaning chore. However, when he arrives at his uncle’s house, things get really strange. His uncle, aunt and a guest are talking using big words and allude to something which peaks Chester’s curiosity.

At first this story reads similar to L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. There are so many fun little quirks like bubble gum flavored toothpaste to ward off brain suckers and the universal milk and cookie pass. Unfortunately, the author seems to try too hard with symbolism, metaphors and allegory. As the story droned, the action faded with too much telling, summary, and became repetitive and vague. The first 5 or 6 characters were ok, but when Rains added more than that, the storyline and plot just made no sense. The characters didn’t have a clear idea of what was going on and neither did I.

I received this book free from Booksneeze to give my honest review.


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Monday, March 26, 2012

S.l.o.w.

The Scroll: A NovelThe Scroll: A Novel by Grant R. Jeffrey
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The Scroll by Dr Grant Jeffrey seems to be more about Biblical prophecy and archaeology than science-fiction or fantasy (which is why I originally chose it). Dr. David Chambers has turned his back on his faith and is trying to start a new chapter in his life when an old friend, Abram Ben-Judah, calls in a favor for a project. While Chambers tries to focus on historical fact, doing a dig in Jerusalem forces him to face the Bible—the very thing he is trying to avoid.

The story is very slow moving, focusing on Jewish customs, traditions, and the technical side of archaeology. When the author attempts to include exciting and suspenseful details, he really gives too much contextually unnecessary info. In fact, I had trouble finding any kind of plot until chapter 16. In an effort to help the main character “return to the faith,” with the help of secondary characters the author is annoyingly preachy and uses cheesey clich├ęs typical of Christian literature. Then in the last couple chapters, the author seems to wrap up the story too quickly, as though he suddenly realized he had to finish but only had so many pages to do it in. Maybe if the book had been broken into two or three books to create a series it would have been better.

Maybe it’s because I usually read thrillers, mysteries and science fiction, but this story dragged on and I debated whether or not to even finish it. If you’re looking for a brainy story on Biblical prophecy or archaeology, this is the book for you. If you want something exciting, then don’t bother.

I received this book free to give an honest review.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Starts slow then picks up speed

The Severed HeadThe Severed Head by Lena Wood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this on a clearance rack and thought I knew why as I read the first chapter. It starts slow, picks up a little in the 2nd chapter, and by the third it’s hard to put down.

Elijah Creek lives at a campground that his dad runs with his mom and twin little sisters. He goes to school with his cousin Robbie, long-time friend Reece, and Japanese transplant Mei. Skid joins the clan later after they make an interesting and mysterious discovery.

I like the fact that the main character is not a Christian and has to learn about the Bible along the way as they all learn about the strange items they discovered buried beneath Old Pilgrim Church and a place they dubbed “Devil’s Cranium.”


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Monday, March 5, 2012

Animorphs book 2

The Visitor (Animorphs, #2)The Visitor by Katherine Applegate
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Animorphs by K.A. Applegate is the second installment in the Animorphs series. While the first book focused on Jake, this book is from his cousin Rachel’s point of view. The friends are trying to track down the Yeerks main source by following their assistant principal Mr. Chapman.

There is lots of excitement and suspense. A definite page turner.


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Slow

MatildaMatilda by Roald Dahl


My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Matilda by Roald Dahl is about a small, sweet girl who is a genius. She deals with over-exaggerated bullies in her parents and the headmistress of her school. Her father is a used car salesman who thinks females are dumb and only useful in the kitchen. Her mother believes a girl should focus on being pretty to catch a man. Both her parents love TV and hate books. While the headmistress is a giant of a bully, Matilda finds a confidant in her teacher Miss Jennifer Honey.




The plot is slow-moving and I think ends rather abruptly but overall it was ok and slightly amusing. Some reviewers complained the adults were too idiotic and overly abusive. In my own experience this is typical of British literature. Yes, the characters tend to be one-dimensional, but this is a children’s book published several years ago. For those who complained it was unbelievable—it is a fantasy, it’s not meant to be believable.




This won’t make my list of favorites but I would still consider it a contender for classic in British children’s literature.






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Friday, March 2, 2012

My introduction to steampunk

Leviathan (Leviathan, #1)Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld is a great adventure into an alternate history. It’s pre-World War I but Europe is taking sides between robotic fighting machines and Frankenstein-esque animal creations. Darwinists are genetically crossing various creatures that are supposed to be better than machines because they can heal and need food rather than fuel. The Clankers create robotic-like machines of various sizes, shapes and abilities. They believe the machines are better because metal is stronger than skin.

Westerfeld has created a great alternate reality. He does an amazing job of describing machines and creatures that don’t exist but makes the reader wonder—could they?

I’ve always been a sci-fi fan and so far I’m really enjoying this new sub-genre steampunk.


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Friday, February 24, 2012

Feeling like a kid again

A Wind in the Door (Time, #2)A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle


My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I first read A Wrinkle in Time when I was in 5th grade and loved it. At the time I don’t think I knew it was the first in a series. Now in my mid-thirties I am finally reading the rest.




L’Engle weaves another fantastic tale with imagination and science. The balance of the universe is at state, stars are disappearing, and something is wrong with Charles Wallace’s farandolae.




I feel like a kid again, getting sucked into L’Engle’s fabricated worlds and found it hard to put down.






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Different style of mystery

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson


My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Mikael Blomkvist is part owner of the magazine Milenium and an journalist. When he publishes an article in Milenium exposing Wennerstrom as a crook, Blomkvist is put on trial for libel.




Lisbeth Salander is a free lance researcher for a security company. Henrik Vanger hires the security company to find out about Blomkvist. Vanger wants to know what kind of journalist Blomkvist is before he hires him to investigate the disappearance of his neice 30 years ago. Salander is assigned to dig up everything on Mikael Blomkvist.




Everyone wants to know--is Blomkvist really guilty and what happended to Harriet Vanger.




There were some descriptive violent scenes--so if you're sensitive to that I don't recommend this book. It is not fact-paced, in fact I'd almost call it a laid back mystery. I could tell by the flow that it was written in another language in another country. It was a page turner with some twists but with sufficient breaks that I could put it down from time to time. Definitely interesting and different.




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Friday, January 27, 2012

Christian contemporary Hardy Boys

Lost Island SmugglersLost Island Smugglers by Max Anderson


My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Lost Island Smugglers by Max Elliot Anderson is about Sam Cooper and his family’s latest move. Sam’s dad’s job has them moving frequently. While Sam has learned to adjust and makes friends quickly, it’s hard to leave relationships behind over and over. When the Cooper family visits a local church, Sam meets two boys who seem to know how to find all the excitement. Tony’s dad owns the marina and Tyler is Tony’s sidekick. After getting all three boys free scuba lessons, Tony borrows one of his dad’s boats so he and his friends can do some real scuba diving. The boys learn a lot about themselves as well as a few secrets of the island that someone else wants kept secret.






Growing up I loved reading Hardy Boys (preferred them over Nancy Drew) and this reminded me of a Christian contemporary version of Hardy Boys. There is definitely action, adventure and suspense for both boys and girls 8-12 years.






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A good read for horse crazy girls

Keeping Secrets (Timber Ridge Riders)Keeping Secrets by Maggie Dana


My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Keeping Secrets by Maggie Dana is about a 14 year-old named Kate McGregor who is trying to avoid her past and her Aunt Marion by getting a summer job. Unfortunately that job means having to deal with her past instead of ignoring it.




If you know a girl aged 8-12 who is crazy about horses, this book is definitely for her. Kate has to deal with all the typical things girls this age face—bullies, truth and lies, trust, and emotional roller coasters. Even as an adult I found myself laughing and crying.




*Note: there is one language issue toward the end. Anyone sensitive to this may want to preview before handing it off.






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Thursday, January 26, 2012

My daughter and I both loved it!

There's a Spaceship in My Tree! (Star-fighters of Murphy Street)There's a Spaceship in My Tree! by Robert West


My rating: 5 of 5 stars


There’s a Spaceship in My Tree!: Episode I (Star-Fighters of Murphy Street) by Robert West is about a boy whose family moves from California to the Midwest and the adjustments he has to make. Everything is so different and he prays each night and wishes on a falling star that he can just go back “home.” As he meets a couple kids who also live on Murphy Street, he discovers that things are more different than he thought. In fact, they’re strange—including the spaceship-shaped treehouse.




West adds a new twist to Christian Sci-fi that I hadn’t seen much, if at all. It’s a fun middle-grade page-turner that I think both boys and girls will enjoy.






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Cute, fun read for 7-10 year-olds

The Chicken Pox Panic (Cul-de-sac Kids, #2)The Chicken Pox Panic by Beverly Lewis


My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Chicken Pox Panic (Cul-de-Sac Kids #2) by Beverly Lewis is a cut story for 7-10 year old girls. Abby Hunter is focused on planning a special party for one of her adopted brother’s first birthday in the U.S. Then one of her friends begins to wonder if she is adopted. Abby worries that the special day will be ruined when the cake plan falls apart and chicken pox spreads through the neighborhood.




The Cul-de-Sac Kids books are Christian, but not preachy. They are a quick, fun read.






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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Similar to Chronicles of Narnia

EmberoksEmberoks by Andrew Duncan


My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Emberoks by Andrew Duncan is about a thirteen year-old boy named Kristofer who is going on his first camping trip alone—his rite of passage to manhood. His night is interrupted by his grandfather getting sick, his brother and sister getting kidnapped and meeting Emberoks. It is really hard to describe an Emberok. Perhaps it is a mix of elf and gnome with an occasional giant.






Overall the story, plot, descriptions and characters are well-done. It is an exciting fantasy adventure that keeps you turning pages. Bible stories are sneaked in, in an interesting way. The metaphors and symbolism are not preachy. In my opinion, only one or two scenes are overdone. I think it was worth the money.






If you liked Chronicles of Narnia, you will probably enjoy this, though I would recommend it for older middle grade to young adult age.






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